In her first year, Heidi Parekh was intimated by the idea of doing an honours thesis research project. Fast forward to today, and Heidi, now a recent graduate of Trent University’s Psychology (honours) program, has research experience on her resume and plans to pursue further research in psychology.
As she took more psychology classes and worked through her degree, Heidi says completing a thesis became less intimidating and was an opportunity to showcase everything she learned.
“While four years fly by, you gain a lot of knowledge” Heidi said. “And you also learn the thesis is a terrific opportunity to apply all of the knowledge you’ve developed throughout those years.”
Anxiety in Young Adults
Heidi’s thesis takes data from a survey conducted by her supervisor Dr. Laura Summerfeldt, professor of psychology and associate chair of undergraduate studies at Trent University, who specializes in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety research.
Participants would rate how relatable a term or question was to them on a scale, and Heidi analyzed, interpreted and presented these answers in her paper to demonstrate trends that have implications to everyday life. Heidi says using numeric data highlights how psychology research involves a wide range of research skills.
“You see these summarized findings, you see them neatly quantitatively or qualitatively laid out, but we often underestimate or underappreciate the work that goes into the findings, such as the mathematics--specifically, statistics. So, developing my project from the bottom up was brilliant as I got to go through the scientific process step by step; an opportunity I would not have experienced without the honours thesis program.”
Receiving Mentorship and Support
Despite being hesitant to pursue an honours thesis when she first came to Trent, Heidi says the support from her supervisor helped her succeed.
“Your supervisor guides you through each step of the project, ensuring success along the way. Professor Summerfeldt was there through everything, encouraging, developing, and challenging my skills. She was even there to guide me through academic affairs, such as the process of applying to graduate school. Dr. Summerfeldt became a mentor to me and is someone I owe a world of gratitude.”
Heidi presented their thesis during the Psychology department’s annual Honours Thesis Poster Presentation Day, the event’s first in-person showcase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Summerfeldt says the event displays the value of pursuing an honours thesis.
“As a capstone experience for our psychology majors, the honours thesis is the best experiential learning we offer. Undergraduates work together with faculty to develop, implement, and report on a research project,” Prof. Summerfeldt said.
“Students gain meaningful experience and training in all stages of research -- from the start of the research question through to communication of findings. It is superb training for any career involving evidence-based decision-making, and a fitting example of the Trent advantage.”
Heidi hopes to pursue a master’s degree and work in clinical child psychology but says she has almost endless career paths she could follow.
“The wonderful thing about psychology is there's so many opportunities that you can go into. I think we get this small scope of the opportunities available within the discipline, but once you're in here, you learn that there's so many branches that stem from psychology.”